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Top 10 phone scams and how to avoid them

Kamal Khurana 22nd Oct 2012 7 Comments

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Phone scams can often be difficult to recognise. They can range from anonymous text messages and ghost calls to cheap ringtone promotions and insurance deals. Below is a list of 10 common phone scams with advice on how to avoid them and how to report suspicious calls or text messages.

Top 10 phone scams

1. Windows scam

This is a highly-reported scam where the caller says they are calling from Windows and tells you that you have a virus on your computer. The caller goes on to warn the customer that their computer will become unusable if the problem is not fixed and offers to guide you through steps to fixing the problem. Instead of helping you he directs you to download a program that asks you to pay a fee. Windows has warned that they never contact a customer unless you have reported and registered a problem yourself.

2. Microsoft technical department scam

This scam is very similar to the Windows phone scam. Cold callers target residents pretending to be from Microsoft and say something like “we have reason to believe there’s a problem with your computer”. They will then ask you to log into a website that will give the caller total control over your computer. This will allow them to obtain all sorts of personal details without your consent.

3. Sky Protect scam

Sky customers have reported calls that claim to be from Sky Protect – the broadcaster’s insurance policy. These callers tell you that you should get cover for your Sky service and ask you to verify your bank details – they may even know your Sky account number which may make this seem more legitimate. If you get a call like this and feel it may be suspicious just put the phone down and contact Sky yourself – they’ll be able to tell you if the call was genuine.

4. BT disconnecting phone scam

BT has warned their customers about scammers posing as BT staff. The so-called BT representative tricks customers into revealing their bank details by claiming that they have an overdue bill that needs paying immediately or else their phone service will be disconnected. If a customer refuses the scammers tells the customer to put down the phone and try to call someone. When the customer does this they are unable to use their phone as the fraudsters have not put down the phone on their side, which cons people into thinking that they are being genuine. The scammers call back minutes later and attempt to collect personal details in order to fix the problem.

5. Missed calls scam

When you receive a missed call from a number you don’t recognize, do you call it back? Most people do but they are unaware that they may be redirected to a premium rate service. The scam is simple, scammers make ‘ghost calls’ to a list of numbers, but never complete the calls. You will then get a missed call on your phone and call it back and you will be charged for the cost of this call. Premium rate numbers usually start with 076, 090 and 190.

6. Ringtone scams

Ringtone scams tend to be targeted at young adults. The scam attracts victims by offering them a ‘free’ ringtone, which seems like a tempting offer at the time. By accepting the ringtone offer users are unaware that they’re actually subscribing to a service that will continue to send ringtones and charge a high premium rate for them.

7. Telephone lottery scams

The telephone lottery scam tricks customers into thinking they’ve been entered into a prize draw. Later, they find out they’ve won a prize, but in order to claim it they must first send money to pay for admin fees etc. Obviously, the prize does not exit, but the scammer claims your money and your personal details.

8. Wrong message scams

Wrong message scams are hard to recognize because they look like a normal text message you might receive from a friend. If you receive a message from an unknown number it’s tempting to reply, but if it’s a scam then the text will cost you a packet . If you don’t recognise a number then don’t text back. If it’s a genuine text the person will call you back – after all they have your number.

Jasmine says...

Quote 1

Keep a close eye on your phone bill for any suspicious numbers.

Quote 2

9. Mobile phone insurance

After purchasing a new mobile phone customers often receive hoax calls from the shop you brought it from. They offer you a mobile phone insurance deal that is too good to turn down, but you must accept and pay on the spot or they say the deal will no longer be available to you. If you accept the offer you are asked for your bank details, but later discover your phone is not insured at all

10. Taxman HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)

HM Revenue & Customs recently warned customers about hoax calls from scammers pretending to be the taxman. The caller tells you that you’re due a tax rebate and asks you for your bank details so the money can be paid into your account. Of course the reality is there is no money and the scammer obtains your bank details for personal use.

How to avoid these scams

  • Join TPS (Telephone preference service), the free service enables you to opt out of unsolicited sales or marketing calls
  • Keep a close eye on your phone bill for any suspicious numbers
  • Never give out your bank details over the phone
  • Don’t publish your mobile phone number online
  • Warn your elderly relatives, as scammers are more likely to target older or less tech-savvy households.

What to do if you receive any suspicious calls

  • Check that a company is legitimate by asking for full contact details
  • Contact PhonepayPlus (the regulator of premium-rate  telephone services) if you suspect you might be a victim
  • Tell Action Fraud about your experiences – they’re the UK’s national fraud and internet crime reporting centre
  • Delete messages and ignore phone calls from unknown numbers
  • Tell your provider by forwarding spam texts and nuisance calls from you mobile to 7726 for O2, T-Mobile and Orange customers; 87726 for Vodafone customers and 37726 for 3 Mobile customers.
Tell us about your phone scam experiences by commenting below this article. Alternatively tweet us or send us a message on Facebook.

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Alan Tweedle
Alan Tweedle
4 years ago

Received a call from 01759503025. Caller informing me that my Amazon account had been hacked. Told caller that I did not have an account and hung up.

Heather Grace Murray
Heather Grace Murray
7 years ago

Got a call from 0023 9235 4444 to my landline today (15 Aug 2016). I live in Northern Ireland. A man told me ‘your computer is sending viruses and I will help you stop it otherwise your computer will crash and die’. He said he was from Windows Technical Department. I asked for a phone number to call him back and he gave me 020 03129 5025 which isn’t a real number. He said his name was Ron and his employee ID was MF7536. I asked where he was calling from and he said “from UK” though his Indian accent… Read more »

Susan Wilson
Susan Wilson
9 years ago

Got a phone call last week from an Indian guy from an unintelligible company telling me my computer had a fault and he could help me fix it. I put the phone down on him. On Saturday morning, phone went again, same scenario. I felt putting the phone down on him was too easy, so went through him like a dose of salts, complaining about being interrupted on a Saturday morning, how dare he wake me up, etc. etc. not giving him a chance to speak and then put the phone down on him. Straight away the phone rang again… Read more »

9 years ago

Very interesting. A warning: Some of these scams are very sophisticated. I had a call from a guy with an Indian accent addressing me by name claiming to be my telecoms provider. This guy said my account no. xxxxxxxxxx had been hacked. He then went on to say the hacking had been traced to my computer! As he spoke extreemely quickly in an urgent tone I asked himm to send me an e-mail. [after it was my ISP ringing me]. The phone immediately gave the call discoonected tone. A subsequent 1471 call produced a number which was forwarded from Sri… Read more »

11 years ago

Right, I must point out that, 1 and 2 are practically the same scammers, they both do the exact same thing, I had them call me, originally it started off as “we are phone on regards of Microsoft”, because people got so familiar of this scam, they moved on to another scam “we are calling on regards to your windows” and you ask them, are you from Microsoft, sometimes they will say yes, sometimes they will say no, we have a contract to work on behalf of them. Sometimes they will hide under false company named “VPER – Viper Networks”,… Read more »

Michael Dwells
Michael Dwells
11 years ago

Thanks for sharing! Read about them at Callercenter too! Looks like you guys are really helping us avoid falling for these schemes.

Good job! 🙂

9 years ago
Reply to  Michael Dwells

I have had a couple of calls – mis-sold or refused credit type scammer – from 01681 481 566, which looks like a UK number. It certainly rings – ‘Back on Track’.
Very dodgy sounding.

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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